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Jan Jennings

(b Decatur, GA, Nov 18, 1885; d Decatur, GA, Nov 13, 1967).

American architect. Georgia’s first registered female architecture, Wilburn designed single-family houses, two-family houses and apartments in the plan book tradition. Wilburn and Emily Elizabeth Holman were the only early 20th century female architects whose published plan books have been documented. A plan book was a catalog of building designs; each design, or stock plan, was represented on a single page with an exterior perspective line drawing or exterior photograph, a descriptive paragraph and a floor plan. Home builders who chose a plan and paid a fee received construction drawings in the mail. Wilburn produced at least ten plan books. As Atlanta grew, Wilburn’s houses defined whole suburbs, a sphere of influence that can be measured on the landscape with thousands of buildings from Atlanta’s center in 1910 outward to districts built in 1965, and encompassing small towns in the region.

A drafting apprenticeship from 1906 to 1907 with the Atlanta architectural firm, B. R. Padgett and Son who designed “fine residences” influenced Wilburn’s choice of domestic architecture as a specialty. In ...

Article

Kristina Wilson

(b Los Angeles, CA, Feb 28, 1977).

American painter and sculptor. Wiley grew up in south central Los Angeles and at the age of 11 his mother began enrolling him in weekend art classes at area museums. He attributed his later focus on the genre of portraiture to his early exposure to portraits in the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA, by Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the San Francisco Art Institute and then received an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2001. He subsequently became the artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. It was during this residency that Wiley developed the artistic program that would structure his career for most of the next two decades: large-scale oil portraits of African American men wearing 21st-century hip-hop-inflected attire (sweatshirts, down jackets, jeans, jewelry) in poses taken from Old Master paintings. Instead of a coherent narrative background, these figures stand against an abstracted ground and are surrounded by ornate patterns that swirl behind them and occasionally over their bodies. After his initial focus on African American men, his subjects expanded to include African American women (...

Article

Rochelle LeGrandsawyer

(b Newark, NJ, June 28, 1955).

African American performance and conceptual artist. Pope.L attended the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn (1973–5), Montclair College (BA 1978) and the Whitney Independent Study Program, New York (1977–8) before earning his MFA from Rutgers University (1981).

As the self-proclaimed “Friendliest Black Artist in America,” Pope.L approached the taboo and divisive subjects of race, sex and class as a comedic provocateur. Well-known Pope.L works, such as Eating the Wall Street Journal (2002) and Selling Mayonnaise for 100 Dollars a Dollop (1990–91), used humor and absurdity to engage socially-loaded subject matter. While Pope.L’s oeuvre spanned multiple media, much of his work took the form of public performance. For example, in The Great White Way: 22 miles, 5 years, 1 street (2002), Pope.L crawled, scooted and dragged himself—in segments over a five year period—through New York City on a 22-mile path from the Statue of Liberty to the Bronx, wearing a Superman costume and a skateboard strapped to his back....

Article

Mark Alan Hewitt

(b Los Angeles, CA, Feb 18, 1894; d Los Angeles, CA, Jan 23, 1980).

American architect. Educated in Los Angeles public schools, Williams was asked by a high school counselor why he wanted to be an architect rather than a doctor, lawyer, or fine artist. His answer was “that I had heard of only one Negro architect in America, and I was sure this country could use one or two more.” Williams went on to become the first African American licensed to practice architecture in California (1921), the first African American Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) (1957), and the designer of more than 3000 projects for clients as diverse as the US Navy, Frank Sinatra, and Lucille Ball.

Williams’s parents, Chester Stanley and Lila Wright Williams, migrated to California from Memphis, TN, in 1893 to establish a fruit business, taking their older son, Chester Stanley, with them. Paul was born in Los Angeles while they lived in a house on Santee Street. Neither parent was able to find lucrative work; his father was employed as a waiter and his mother as a dressmaker. Chester Williams died in 1896 and his wife two years later, leaving two orphan boys to be cared for by neighbors....

Article

Camara Dia Holloway

(b Philadelphia, PA, Feb 5, 1948).

American photographer, curator and scholar. Willis was born in North Philadelphia to a hairdresser mother and a policeman father who was an amateur photographer. Within a familial and communal context, Willis learned that photographs could function as powerful statements of African American identity. These ideas were reinforced by reading her family’s copy of the publication The Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955) that featured the photographs of Roy DeCarava, a major African American photographer. She also attended the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition, Harlem on My Mind in 1969. Willis earned a BFA from the Philadelphia College of Art in 1975 and an MFA from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1979. Inspired by the quilting and storytelling traditions in her family, Willis developed a practice that combined her photographs, family photographs and other elements into autobiographical quilts. Her later works focused more on the female body.

From 1980 to 1992...

Article

Michelle Yun

[ James, Christopher Mallory ]

(b Vineburg, CA, June 11, 1943; d New York, NY, Nov 17, 1987).

American sculptor. Born Christopher Mallory James, Wilmarth moved to New York in 1960 to attend the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He took a year off in 1962 after the suicide of his brother but returned, receiving a BA in 1965. There he met and later married fellow artist Susan Rabineau. Wilmarth worked briefly as a studio assistant for Tony Smith from 1967 to 1969. He was appointed an adjunct instructor of art at Cooper Union in 1969, where he taught until 1980.

Wilmarth’s Minimalist sculptures composed of glass and metal are meditations on light and space. A critical turning point occurred when he first introduced glass into his sculptures in 1967. These early constructions made from highly polished birch and sheets of tempered glass were inspired by his work as a cabinetmaker. The atmospheric translucence of glass achieved by etching the surface with hydrofluoric acid captivated the artist and by ...

Article

Margaret Rose Vendryes

(b Mayfield, KY, April 30, 1899; d New York, NY, Jan 1, 1977).

American painter. Wilson worked as graphic artist in Chicago for five years after completing the four-year commercial art program at the Art Institute of Chicago School in 1923. He became an adept colorist with a particular interest in still life composition. Wilson hoped to grow as a painter after moving to Harlem, New York in 1928 where he worked odd jobs for wages. Three years later, he permanently relocated to Greenwich Village. He exhibited with the Harmon Foundation, at the Detroit Museum, the Contemporary Arts and Roko Galleries in New York City, and at most of the large historically black universities and colleges. Wilson socialized with important members of the New Negro arts movement such as Aaron Douglas and Jacob Lawrence whose abbreviated figurative works tempered his academic realist style ( see New Negro Movement ). His skill with linear gestures, affinity with nature, and ability to strike a coherent balance between them identify this best work. With two years of Guggenheim fellowships, he spent time with the African Americans living on South Carolina’s Sea Islands in ...

Article

Tracy Fitzpatrick

(b Bronx, NY, 1954).

American sculptor, installation and conceptual installation artist. Wilson was born in the Bronx, attended the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, and received his BFA from Purchase College, The State University of New York in 1976.

While at Purchase College, Wilson studied performance art and dance and also served as a guard at the Neuberger Museum of Art. After college, he worked in various capacities at several New York City museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. In 1987, he became the director of the Longwood Arts Project, where he organized “Rooms With a View,” an exhibition for which he borrowed museum experiences, weaving together art objects, display space, and institutional labels to interrogate methods of museum display and the meanings generated therein. This strategy, an Institutional Critique that Wilson referred to as “tromp l’oeil curating,” has emerged as the focus of his artistic practice....

Article

Patricia Hills

(b Roxbury, MA, Apr 14, 1922; d Brookline, MA, Jan 22, 2015).

American sculptor, painter, printmaker, and teacher. Raised in Roxbury, a suburb of Boston, Wilson was the second of five children of Reginald and Violet Wilson, immigrants from British Guiana (now the Republic of Guyana). He attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with a full scholarship and received a diploma with highest honors in 1945; a BS degree in art education followed in 1947 from Tufts University. With a fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he spent 1947–1949 in Paris, where he studied with Fernand Léger. Returning to Boston he taught briefly at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, married Julie Kowitch, and moved to Mexico City with a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. There he became friends with Elizabeth Catlett and her husband Francesco Mora, both active in the graphic workshop organized by leftist artists, the Taller de Gráfica Popular, where he worked. In Mexico he learned the techniques of true fresco, which had been popularized by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, and painted the mural ...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

(b Philadelphia, PA, 1947).

American performance artist. Wilson graduated in 1969 from Wilmington College in Ohio, where she majored in English literature and minored in art. She completed her MA at Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS, but left the program in 1971 prior to receiving her PhD and began teaching at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. She started making language-based art about parents and children, as she explored her experiences as a woman and artist. She transitioned to using performance as a medium, focusing on identity formation beginning in 1972 with works such as Posturing: Drag where she made herself up in different appearances, documenting each in photographs. This work was the first of several in which the artist examined the fluid nature of gender and self, although her work was dismissed by the male-oriented art world. She began receiving recognition when her 1973 postcard image and text work Breast Forms Permutated...

Article

Anne K. Swartz

Splinter group from the American, male-dominated Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC), which refused to expand its protests on behalf of minority artists to include women. The Art Workers’ Coalition was a loose collective of progressive artists, filmmakers, writers, critics and museum workers started in January 1969 in New York. They wanted art institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to restructure, reform and become more politically involved. The artist Takis (b 1925) wanted a work removed from a MOMA exhibition because he didn’t feel it represented his current work. Several artists met to discuss the political and social role of the artists. These meetings evolved into political activism with protests, letters and demonstrations. However, women artists felt increasingly marginalized by the male-dominance of the group and splintered off to form their own collective as Women Artists in Revolutions (WAR). Many women artists had no gallery affiliation, which made museum exhibition more difficult. They were especially annoyed by the Whitney Museum of American Art’s ...

Article

Kristin E. Larsen

(b Lawrence, KS, July 2, 1878; d Newton, NJ, July 9, 1936).

American landscape architect and housing reformer. Educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Wright received his early training in planned picturesque park and streetscape design in the offices of the landscape architect George Kessler (1862–1923). Wright’s first widely recognized project in Clayton, an upscale neighborhood in St Louis, MO, featured palatial homes on large lots along curvilinear roads and oriented toward interior parks. He moved to Washington, DC, in 1918 to design new communities for war workers in the ship building industries. This short-lived experiment in federally funded housing transformed Wright, connecting him with such architects as Clarence Stein (1882–1975), who shared his social reform sensibilities. In the 1920s and 1930s, in partnership with Stein, Wright designed “new towns” inspired by the English garden city writings of Ebenezer Howard but reflective of the new “motor age.” Begun in 1924, Sunnyside Gardens in Queens, New York, featured single family, duplex and cooperative apartments arranged in a perimeter design around central courtyards. In ...

Article

Midori Yoshimoto

(b Honolulu, HI, Oct 3, 1961).

American installation artist of Japanese ancestry. Yamamoto’s works have evoked an emotional memory that speaks to a larger social and historical context. Her delicate and labor-intensive installations have often served as visual metaphors for the forgotten lives of Japanese and Japanese Americans, many of whom were profoundly affected by the Pacific war.

Yamamoto received her BA in art from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in 1983 and M.A. in studio art from New York University in 1991. She also participated in the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program and Skowhegan. From 1990 to 2003 she worked as an artist educator in museums, public schools and colleges in New York, and participated in many national and international artist-in-residence programs. From 2003 Yamamoto taught at Smith College in Northampton, MA.

Yamamoto’s early sculptural works memorialized her grandmother, Chiyo, who came to Hawaii in the early 20th century as a picture bride. She was a laundress on a sugar plantation and committed suicide at the age of 49 in ...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

[ Jimmy Toddy ]

(b Wide Ruins, AZ, 1928).

American painter. Bill Lippencott, owner of the Wide Ruins Trading Post, gave Yazz paints and paper, encouraging him to paint at the age of seven. Lippencott and wife Sallie recognized Yazz’s artistic talent and advised him to pursue art seriously. At the age of ten, his work was exhibited by a museum in Springfield, IL. Completing his education at Sherman Indian School, CA, he established himself as an artist with a long national career.

Yazz enlisted in the Marines during World War II as a Navajo Code Talker. After the war, he studied art at Mills College in Oakland, CA, working under Yasuo Kuniyoshi . Returning to the Navajo reservation near Wide Ruins, he earnestly began his artistic painting career.

Painting subjects familiar from his daily reservation life, Yazz specialized in typical daily and ceremonial scenes. His paintings utilize flat minimal backgrounds and suspend his subjects in a floating and entertaining world. The paintings record the natural movement of light and air with powerful drama....

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Ash Grove, MO, Feb 20, 1890; d Chicago, IL, Dec 25, 1972).

American painter of African, Cherokee, Creek, and European ancestry. Although Yoakum claimed to have been born on a Navajo reservation in 1888, his birthplace and childhood home has been established as Ash Grove, MO. His aunt was adopted by a Navajo family, and although the artist drew great inspiration from the Navajo, his connection to them was imaginary. Yoakum’s life was indeed one of adventure and travel—he toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the Ringling Bros. Circus, and also traveled around the world as stow-away and later as a soldier in World War I. Yet the line between fact and fantasy will always be blurred when contending with his lyrical landscapes that ostensibly offer a record of his far-ranging adventures to exotic locales.

While Yoakum began to draw by the 1950s, he did not devote himself to this calling until he had retired in the early 1960s. Settling in Chicago in ...

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Bern, ID, Oct 13, 1935).

American composer. Young was an exponent of experimental “drone” music and an originator of Minimalism (whose diverse practitioners include Terry Riley, Steve Reich and Philip Glass). Educated at the University of California, Los Angeles (1957–8), he completed his graduate studies in composition at the University of California, Berkeley. An avid and talented jazz musician, Young performed with legendary figures Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry. In 1959, he attended Summer Courses at Darmstadt, the center of New Music, taking advanced composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen. There he discovered the work of John Cage and met Cage’s great interpreter David Tudor, who put Young in contact with Cage. Back in California, Young presented Cage’s work, adopting some of his radical strategies in his own music. A landmark Young composition of this period is Poem for Tables, Chairs, Benches, etc. (1960), a piece of indeterminate duration.

In 1960 Young moved to New York and galvanized a receptive circle of Cage-inspired artists and composers. Young’s most significant contribution to this milieu were his ...

Article

Roberta K. Tarbell

( Mackintosh )

(b Salt Lake City, UT, Aug 9, 1877; d Norwalk, CT, Nov 2, 1957).

American sculptor, painter, etcher and teacher. Grandson of Mormon leader Brigham Young, Young spent his childhood on a farm near his father’s company, Deseret Woolen Mills and in Salt Lake City, both in the Utah Territory. As a youth, he sketched farmers and workers constructing the transcontinental railroads. From 1897 to 1899 he studied with a Beaux-Arts trained teacher, James T. Harwood (1860–1940), and worked as an artist and engraver for the Salt Lake Tribune, the Salt Lake Herald and the Deseret News (1894–1901). Young experienced the “Old West” directly.

Young’s teachers at the Art Students League in New York (1899–1900) were Kenyon Cox and George Bridgman (1865–1943). During his years in Paris (1901–5), Young befriended Stein family, §2 and Alfred H(enry) Maurer and took classes with Jean-Paul Laurens and Charles Raoul Verlet (1857–1923) at the Académie Julian, and with ...

Article

Tom Williams

(b Chicago, IL, 1941).

American painter. He received a BFA (1964) and an MFA (1966) from the Art Institute of Chicago, and he subsequently moved to New York. In 1979, his work was included in the important New Image Painting exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and it has subsequently been compared with that of other artists of this generation, including Jennifer Bartlett, Neil Jenney and Robert Moskowitz (b 1935). He is particularly known for using cotton balls dipped in acrylic paint to make mosaic-style images that reflected on, among other things, the history of cotton and Byzantine mosaics.

During the early 1970s, Zucker began making images by applying cotton balls in gridded arrangements to the surfaces of his canvases. The resulting compositions presented idiosyncratic elaborations of modernist painting’s medium specificity under the guise of the image’s return. Zucker achieved this effect by substituting cotton balls for the stretched cotton canvas that was so often described as the essence of painting by modernist critics. His work has often featured whimsical subjects such as pirate ships, wizards and blimps, but he has typically subjected them to a process of formal transformation that downplayed their conventional meanings. In a series of compositions from the early 1990s, for example, he stretched sash cord across wooden panels to create eccentric grids that suggested the contours of cactuses in radically abstract form. Subsequently, he made a series of “box paintings” in which he poured liquid paint into the recessed spaces of partitioned wooden panels and allowed it to dry. The resulting compositions evoked the flat, modernist geometry of works by Picasso in the late 1920s or ...